I closed the first post by saying that the story was good but the gameplay was disappointing — the more I play the more it solidifies my opinion there. I would even go further than “disappointing” and say the system/battles are bad.
One big mistake I made was carrying over the data from Arc the Lad 1. From what I can tell, it only does two things. First, if you did the lengthy optional quest to get Choko in part 1, you’ll be able to do another lengthy optional quest in 2. Second, it carries over the levels of your party members. This is a bad thing unless you did a lot of the extra stuff in the first game and levelled up your members a lot.
By far the worst part of the game’s mechanics are the block/dodge effects. The chance for an enemy to block or dodge your attack is based directly on the difference in levels between the attacker and the defender. It is not affected by any stats, or whether the attack was from behind or the side. This aspect of the system has a huge effect on the game and is one of the worst single decisions I’ve seen in an SRPG. It means that it’s quite difficult to use a lower leveled character, because the chance of their attack not working is high and the counterattack will do a lot of damage. (This also means that characters who can attack from a space away are much more useful, if underlevelled.)
Even if you do have a good party that is levelling up, there are many parts of the game where the enemies suddenly take a 20 or so level jump, meaning that even your good characters will have problems with missing and blocking. Now, it’s not that this makes the game exceptionally difficult (at least up to the point I’ve reached), it’s more that it makes it annoying and tedious, and encourages the use of a few powerful characters rather than making full use of your team.
The first place this really affected me was the White House area that I was in the middle of when I made the last post. I think the intention is for this place to be cool because all the characters return from AtL1 and team up with various people from the new party. But if all your AtL1 characters are low leveled, it makes the battles quite frustrating. From what I understand, if you do not carry over data the AtL1 characters start at pretty high levels.
Another problem is the limit on inventory space. It may seem like the 96 spaces are a lot, but there are a ton of different types of items in the game, and many different kinds of weapons and armor. Some you want to save because they can be used in the Combine Shop to make new ones. But I was constantly running into the item limit.
Anyway, let’s get back to the game flow. After a long series of events that I mentioned above, where you use all the different characters in groups of 2-3, everyone meets up at the Chimera Research Lab to take down the first of the four enemy generals, Gallarno.
He is a rather strange enemy because you have to cut away these skin areas before you can actually get to him. I used Gogen to blast everyone with large scale spells. Arc is very useful because he has a statue that restores some of his MP each turn — if this did come from the carryover then that’s one good reason to do it. Arc has Total Healing (which heals status effects and HP), and Weak Enemy, two very useful spells that the MP regen makes it much easier to use. I included him in my party from here on out whenever I was allowed to. Poco’s purpose is to heal and increase attack. Tosh attacks. I think Lieze is required.
After Gallarno is defeated, we have a brief set of scenes involving Iga (the martial arts guy from the first game), and then you can use the Silver Noah to go anywhere in the world. This opens up a lot of new content — you can do a ton of the guild jobs and wanted monsters. You can start exploring the Sealed Ruins which have power units for a robot character (another inventory issue, though). You can even do the Ancient Ruins, as well as go to Mother Claire’s place to work with your monsters.
I did a lot of the guild jobs before moving on, and got Raijin and Fujin. These characters are extremely useful; their spells do huge damage and they have a combo attack. For the rest of the game, I always included one of the two (whichever one was lower level) in any party I was allowed to.
Now it’s off to Brakia, where there’s a long mining dungeon with various trolleys you take through the place. At least here you can use a 5 person party and choose freely.
After that, Gia Temple. The main goal now seems to be to destroy the various brainwashing devices that Anderl is using around the world. This one is guarded by just a random mook who isn’t very strong. Then it’s off to Millmana island, where the Oil Rig we have to go to is guarded by a train with an antiaircraft gun. So take that down first.
The train requires you to split into two groups; putting Fujin in one and Raijin in the other helps a lot. After that it’s the Deep Sea Oli Rig. I found this dungeon annoying; the maps are very small, so you get stuck a lot. The enemies are way above me in levels so they’re always faster and can move first, which means they get a lot of free attacks.
At the end of this section we finally take out Yagun (who was in the first game) — it turns out he was actually the monkey, not the guy sitting there. Next up is a pyramid, where another brainwashing machine awaits. First we have to get a tribesman to open up the pyramid; he wants to ally with the enemies to save his mom, but of course they already killed his mom a long time ago (there’s quite a bit of grisly stuff in this game).
The pyramid itself is short and easy because you can avoid most battles by answering Sphinx questions correctly.
Then it’s off to the “God Tower”, where ancient machines await to attack us. These bumbling comic relief characters follow us and mess things up, but then help us at the end against the boss.
So that’s where I am at this point; it seems like I’m at about the 80% point so I should have the game beaten in the next few days.
I consider Arc 2 a S+ tier RPG, but more like a C tier SRPG. If you watch “The Making of Arc the Lad,” it really becomes obvious that the developers were NOT really prioritizing the strategic elements, and instead wanted to make a very good RPG. And that’s fine – not every SRPG has to have the strategic complexity of SFC Fire Emblem or Age of Empires or etc. That being said, you’re overexaggerating the game’s flaws. Arc 2 still works fine as a SRPG.
Yes, the dodge system is regrettable and probably should’ve been balanced better (along with the difficulty curve). But I was able to beat the game with a HORRIBLE team imported from Arc 1 and with almost 0 grinding at all. The main idea is to make better use of spellcasters, because just like in Shining Force, magic never misses. Dodge is a problem, but it’s not gamebreaking. Importantly, it doesn’t necessitate any grind, and it’s not something that can’t be overcome with a little bit of thinking. This is more than could be said of Tactics Ogre, but with that game, you didn’t complain about this imbalance being “one of the worst ideas in any SRPG.”
Yes, the underleveled quality of imported characters is regrettable, but it’s really minor at worst. My Tosh was level 20 imported and he was fine for every single mandatory battle; my Gogen was level 30-something and he had no problems; my Kukuru was level… 20 something and she was fine for her two mandatory battles. The game intentionally scales down these mandatory battles to match with your force-deployed characters’ levels, so the programmers definitely showed some foresight.
Inventory space really isn’t a problem at all. 96 spaces is plenty. Most of the items you get are vendor trash. If anything, the problem is that the game gives you too much gold and nothing to do with it. Regardless, if this is a problem, it’s minor at worst.
I haven’t had to do any grinding yet — it’s not so much that the level difference makes the game impossible to beat, but it makes it harder to use your party to the fullest.
I definitely did complain about the level difference problem in Tactics Ogre; it’s one of the worst aspects of the game. As to why I found Tactics Ogre a lot more fun than AtL2 it’s hard to say; some of it is just personal preference — this is one reason why I have always been hesitant to assign ratings to the games, because they’re so subjective. I know a lot of people like this game.
Thanks for the comment, though, I do like to see people engaging with my posts even when they disagree!
Yes, I know you pointed out the level difference as being a problem in Tactics Ogre. My point was that you didn’t complain about it being “the single worst decision in any SRPG,” like you did with Arc 2. If you think it was such a horrendous idea here, then okay, I actually agree it was a bad idea; but at least keep it consistent is what I’m saying. I don’t disagree that it’s a problem; my gripe is your lack of consistency and your undue harshness towards Arc 2.
Certainly, it’s a problem in both games, but it’s much worse in Tactics Ogre because the systems force you to grind. At least in Arc 2, there’s no grinding necessary… and even then, there are things like bounties and sidequests that make grinding more dynamic (whereas with Tactics Ogre, you’d just have your units bop each other for hours). Furthermore, the absence of permadeath in Arc 2 alleviates much of the minor irritations in the game. Objectively speaking, there are things in Arc 2 that make this level disparity system much less harsh than in Tactics Ogre. It’s unfair and inconsistent to say this is “the single worst decision in any SRPG” here, whereas with Tactics Ogre you merely said “it’s a flaw.”
I didn’t mention this in the original comment, but I also find it rather disappointing how you didn’t really focus on any of the game’s strongest points. The music, the graphics, the sidequests, the open-world exploration, the bounties, the characters, the story (which you even say is good)… why was there no mention of any of that in the article? It just strikes me as odd how you gloss over everything that makes the game so great, while focusing on a few minor issues. Normally, you’re fairly objective and thorough with your posts, but this one missed the mark for me because of this. Again, I see Arc 2 as a S+ RPG, but more like a C tier SRPG. To focus solely on the SRPG stuff feels kinda incomplete and unfair to the game’s totality.
I usually try to reflect more on the overall picture of the game in my last post once I’ve finished it — I will be mentioning the story, graphics, and music (which I agree are all strong points). The intermediate posts as I’m playing the game are more for my feelings as I’m playing it, rather than an overall view. The gameplay/system is always #1 for me, and a game can never be saved from a bad system by a good story or graphics.
I think I phrased this sentence badly: “This aspect of the system has a huge effect on the game and is one of the worst single decisions I’ve seen in an SRPG.” Here’s what I meant: Arc the Lad 2 is potentially a really good game, and the system has a lot of potential as well. But by the single decision of basing dodge/block purely on levels, they’ve taken what could be a good system and (for me) made it a bad one. I didn’t mean that this game has the worst system of any game I’ve played. (I also think I was wrong about that; it’s a combination of that system decision plus the sudden jump in levels the enemies take at certain points in the game. If the level progression of the enemies were smoother, it wouldn’t be such a problem.)
Also somehow, although this may be illogical, I’m bothered more by explicitly factoring the level difference into the calculation (and having that be the only factor!), than I am by the Tactics Ogre system where it’s based on stats.
Yeah, that’s fair enough. I get what you were trying to say now, especially with regards to difficulty spikes. Arc 2 is infamous for having a lot of them and it’s probably the thing that even its biggest apologists can recognize is regrettable. I personally enjoyed them because it added a dimension of strategy in an otherwise very easy game, but objectively, there were much better and more interesting ways to design the game.
Fun fact: this game throws balance out the window so incredibly hard, doubly so in the US version. It relates to the expansion disc “Arc the Lad: Monster Arena” (sold separately overseas, included in the US Collection release for free), in which you can basically do obscenely-scaling combat challenges with a few rulesets, or challenge other players to see who min-maxed harder.
You can also trade items, which, if you have two memory cards, means you can clone a party and trade items over and over. Want the entire cast to have the one-of-a-kind Romancing Stone item from the first game that turns all spell costs to 0? Go nuts. Want to use the “skill trainer” NPC to mess with people’s abilities and give more people the Invincible spell that does what it says on the tin? An alarming amount of the cast can do this. In fact, one of the final challenges is just you versus 3 enemies with that skill and it’s a game of rocket tag on who runs out of MP first.
None of this makes the final two bosses any kind of acceptable. :v